After a call from Donald Trump for NFL players to give him a list of names for possible pardons, a response in the form of a letter published in the New York Times explained why the situation is a bit more complicated than that.
Saints tight end Ben Watson -- along with fellow members of the Players Coalition advocacy group Anquan Boldin, Doug Baldwin and Malcolm Jenkins -- were listed as authors of the letter, headlined "President Trump, Here’s Whom You Should Pardon".
The letter suggested two main themes for systemic changes: A blanket pardon for anyone facing life sentences on nonviolent drug crimes, and pardons for the elderly.
"But a handful of pardons will not address the sort of systemic injustice that N.F.L. players have been protesting. These are problems that our government has created, many of which occur at the local level," reads the letter, published online Thursday. "If President Trump thinks he can end these injustices if we deliver him a few names, he hasn’t been listening to us."
Watson, who played for the Saints from 2013-'15 and re-signed in New Orleans before this season, posted his own message to Twitter Thursday morning: "Families are being ripped apart. And by creating a more fair system, you'll affect the lives of thousands of people and have a lasting impact on millions more."
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Trump made his remarks ahead of his trip to the recent G7 summit in Canada, saying players had "seen a lot of abuse, they've seen a lot unfairness."
Trump has been at odds with many NFL players stemming from his opposition to league-wide protests conducted during the National Anthem at games over the past two seasons. Many players, following the lead of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have taken a knee during the anthem in protest of police brutality against black people.
Demario Davis knows all about both sides of the national anthem issue.
The league has since adopted a policy that players must stand at attention if they are on the field during the anthem.
The New York Times letter points to the recent pardon given to Alice Johnson as an example of the president's fair use of his clemency powers, but did not provide a list of names. Instead, the letter explained how he could use clemency to "make a real dent" in the prison population.
"Imagine how many more Alice Johnsons the president could pardon if he treated the issue like the systemic problem it is, rather than asking professional football players for a few cases," the letter continues.
Several players around the league joined in on the message, including newly signed Saints linebacker Demario Davis, also a member of the Players Coalition. Davis posted a video explaining his desire to see elderly offenders pardoned.
"You have the power to pardon these people and let them spend their last days amongst family members and loved ones," he said in the video. "There's your answer."
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For the full letter from the New York Times, click here.
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